Myths and legends

How to distinguish an expensive emerald from a cheap one?

The mining region is one of the most important factors. The fact is that the quality of an emerald is largely determined by the nature of its deposit. Almost all Colombian stones are clean, transparent, almost free of impurities, chips, cracks and other defects. In Zimbabwe, on the contrary, the vast majority of mined emeralds are cloudy and not so spectacular.

The most common emeralds include stones from Zambia, Africa. The deposit was discovered only in the early 2000s, but the nuggets found there have already amazed jewelers from all over the world with their quality and availability. Zambian emeralds are bright green and perfectly transparent. Today Zambia is the leader in the production of gem-quality emeralds.

The historic Malyshevsky mine in the Urals also produces some of the most valuable and expensive emeralds. The stones mined here are characterized by an incredibly rich color, bright grassy hue, transparency and a smooth surface without defects. The amount of impurities is minimal. In addition, the Malyshevsky mine often contains the rarest giant emeralds. Buying Malyshevsky emerald today is not easy, since this mine is a strategically important site for the country, and visits to it, as well as the purchase of raw materials, are very limited.

At the same time, absolutely pure and transparent emeralds are among the rarest. As a result, they may turn out to be even more expensive than diamonds, especially large stones weighing more than 5 carats. For such stones, the country of origin fades into the background, and color and clarity become the most important pricing parameters.

The type and quality of cut also determines the price of the stone. A small perfectly cut emerald can cost as much as a stone twice the size, but with an “economical” simple cut that retains the weight of the stone. The classic method is the emerald cut – it minimally grinds the crystal, keeping it large and massive. But there are also round and oval shapes. The pear-shaped cut – in the shape of a drop – is very popular.

Some complex cutting methods can also reveal the richness and depth of an emerald – and thereby increase its price.

Also, the color saturation determines the price of the stone. The rarest and most expensive are intense green, dark and deep. Light stones are cheaper. However, some bright grassy emeralds can compete with diamonds in price.

A certificate issued by a gemological laboratory is a document confirming the authenticity and characteristics of the stone. Essentially, it increases customer confidence. The most reputable laboratories and certification centers are located in the centers of extraction, cutting and sale of precious stones. In the USA it is GIA. In Russia – Gemological Center of Moscow State University. M. V. Lomonosov. Switzerland: Gubelin, SSEF, GRS. Sri Lanka: EGL, GIC, GGTL. Thailand: AIGS, Lotus Gemology, GIT. Well, international IGI.

Finally, natural emeralds are several times more expensive than artificial ones. The latter are often cheaper even than semi-precious stones.

There are several classification systems for emeralds. In Russia and many post-Soviet countries, a set of standards is used that distinguishes five groups of gems by color:

  1. Dark green.
  2. Medium dark green.
  3. Medium green.
  4. Medium light green.
  5. Light green.

Emeralds from the first color group are the most expensive, and from the fifth – the cheapest (except when they have ideal purity and transparency).

To assess purity, a system of three categories is used:

  1. Transparent, practically free of impurities and inclusions.
  2. Transparent, with a small amount of impurities and inclusions.
  3. Stones with a large number of defects – impurities, opacities, cracks.

Stones of the first category are the most expensive.

The classification system also distinguishes four gradations of mass:

  1. Small – having a mass of 0,49 carats or less.
  2. Medium – having a mass of 0,5–1 carat.
  3. Large – weighing 1–10 carats.
  4. Very large – having 10 carats or more.

Categories are arranged in order of increasing cost: small – the cheapest, very large – the most expensive due to their rarity.

Matching the size and weight of emeralds

The size (width and height) of the stone depends on the weight of the raw material and the future cut. It is impossible to cut the same pair without large losses. Stones are selected for pairing after the raw material has been cut, since first of all they try to preserve the total mass of the emerald. A cut emerald may be flat or, conversely, too deep. Therefore, two emeralds of the same weight can have different sizes. Well-sized, ideally cut stones will always cost more.

It may happen that after applying a classic cut with facets, the emerald will lose its attractiveness, since the facets will be emphasized and show inclusions that will be perceived as flaws in the stone. To avoid this, the emerald is cut into a cabochon cut. The cabochon has no edges; it is flat on one side and convex on the other.

How emeralds are imitated and counterfeited

The high price and impressive demand for emeralds encourage unscrupulous jewelers to counterfeit these precious stones. However, the methods of misleading may be different. Sometimes semi-precious stones are sold under the guise of emerald, and sometimes emeralds of laboratory origin are sold under the guise of natural ones.

Imitations of emeralds (semi-precious stones)

Semi-precious stones are often sold under the guise of emeralds. They are also green, which can mislead an inexperienced buyer. At the same time, the list of semi-precious stones that can be sold under the guise of emeralds is quite extensive.

Demantoid – a rare bright green stone. Its pure and transparent varieties have excellent light refraction, so in some cases they can be even more expensive than emeralds. However, for falsification, of course, low-quality demantoids are used.

Fluorite rarely used in jewelry. This is a very soft stone that has a low shine and scratches quickly. But thanks to its rich green color, scammers use it as an imitation emerald.

Tourmaline It is usually red in color, but the variety found in Tanzania is an intense green. This stone is very similar to an emerald and can fool even a novice jeweler. However, an experienced specialist will instantly distinguish tourmaline from a gemstone, since it has a higher degree of light refraction.

Chrome diopside It is so similar to an emerald that it can deceive both buyers and jewelers. Fortunately, this stone is quite rare. It is possible to distinguish chrome diopside from emerald only in laboratory conditions. By the way, chrome diopside was previously mistakenly called “Siberian emerald.”

Glass also often used in counterfeiting gemstones. And not only emeralds.

Chrysolite – a semi-precious stone that is often tried to be sold under the guise of an emerald. But an experienced jeweler can easily distinguish these nuggets. Peridot is characterized by high birefringence – if you look at it through a magnifying glass or microscope, you can easily see the birefringence of its faces. Also, inclusions in chrysolites differ from inclusions in emeralds.

Uvarovite often found in the form of a “brush” – a group of small crystals on one base. Therefore, they sometimes try to pass it off as a druse – this is a nugget that consists of a group of emerald crystals fused on one base, they are called a “druze”. Such specimens are not cut, but sent to collections in their original condition. Their cost significantly exceeds the cost of faceted emeralds.

Jade has a characteristic “greasy” sheen.

Kyanite, synthetic quartz, YAG, green spinel and moldavite can also be used as imitation.

Artificial emeralds began to be produced in the first half of the 20th century. To grow them, the conditions that are observed deep in the earth’s crust are recreated. In laboratory settings, emeralds are “born” in just a couple of months.

The chemical composition of natural and laboratory-grown emeralds is identical. However, there are still differences in the stones. While natural emeralds without inclusions, defects and impurities are extremely rare, each specimen grown in a laboratory is perfectly pure. Therefore, gemologists, having encountered a stone devoid of “flaws,” conduct complex analyzes to verify its natural origin.

In order for artificial emeralds to be as similar to natural ones as possible, they can be processed – cracked, or specially grown with gas bubbles and inclusions. For an experienced gemologist, it will not be difficult to distinguish such a stone from a natural emerald, although magnification greater than that of a simple magnifying glass may be required.

Although artificial emeralds may seem even more beautiful to some than natural ones, they lack individuality and their own history. And most importantly, they have no investment value. Over time, such stones only become cheaper.

Doublets and triplets

Doublets and triplets are one of the crudest methods of counterfeiting emeralds, intended exclusively for inexperienced buyers. To counterfeit a gemstone, two pieces of the mineral are glued together to form a doublet. If you need to make a triplet, use three pieces.

Cubic zirconia, glass and other materials are used to create doublets and triplets.

In some cases, real natural emeralds, sometimes clear varieties of beryl, are used to create the doublet and triplet. Usually these are small, damaged stones that cannot be cut. The main problem of such doublets is the low quality of gluing; such an “emerald” simply collapses over time.

The result is cheap “stones”. If they are trying to sell you an “emerald” at a suspiciously low price, you should not rush into the purchase.

Luxurious jewelry with natural emeralds

Jewelry with emeralds is not only a luxurious decoration, but also a good investment. Therefore, you need to approach your purchase responsibly. In our catalog you will find proven jewelry with emeralds – with natural stones of exclusively jewelry quality.

The Malyshevskoe emerald deposit began to use a unique mining shield technology. It allows production to begin in new areas of the project for the first time in 20 years. Already this year, emerald production at the field should increase by 20%, and alexandrite – the rarest gemstone in the world – fourfold.

Interest in these stones in the world is growing – over the past three years they have risen in price by almost a third, said Kirill Fedorov, head of the RT-Capital company of Rostec, which manages this emerald deposit.

He told TASS about how many real Ural gems are in Russian stores, whether it is worth investing in them and how to distinguish a real stone from a synthetic one.

Where and how are emeralds mined in Russia?


Only at one field – Malyshevsky in the Urals. Stones have been mined here since the thirties of the last century, and this is the only deposit in Europe developed industrially. Moreover, there are not only emeralds, but also alexandrite, beryl, chrysoberyl, and phenacite.

Stones are mined in a mine at a depth of up to 360 m. The rock mass is blasted using special “gentle” explosives and inspected. The found green crystals are manually extracted using special devices, and the rest of the rock is sent to a processing plant, where it is washed, crushed, and then the stones are searched for and selected automatically and manually. The found gems are processed and sorted.

How many emeralds are mined in the world?


The leader in emerald mining is Colombia; these stones are also mined in Brazil and Zambia. The Mariinsky mine, which develops the Malyshevskoye deposit, ranks third in the world in terms of emerald production. In 2020, 150 kg of emeralds were mined here, and this year the mine plans to increase their production by 20%, to 180 kg.

According to experts, the emerald reserves of the Malyshevsky deposit amount to 60 thousand kg, and these are only explored deposits. “Last year was one of the most difficult periods for both the Mariinsky mine and the gemstone mining industry – since February our sales have fallen by 80% and export sales have completely stopped. In the second half of 2020, the situation began to improve, and we saw a revival in demand for stones such as emerald and alexandrite,” says Fedorov.

And how do our stones differ from Colombian ones?


Colombian emeralds tend to be darker and richer, with cooler blue tones, while Ural stones have a characteristic “grass” color and are lighter in color.

The phrase “Colombian emerald” has become a trade brand, which often gives an additional increase to their value, explained Vitaly Shaposhnikov, executive director of the Mariinsky mine.

In general, all stones differ greatly in color and quality depending on the deposit in which they were mined. At the same time, Colombian emeralds are usually “ennobled” – impregnated with special solutions to make microcracks invisible and improve their characteristics. Such technologies are not used for Ural stones. “Of course, all stones are different. However, there is no dispute among our jewelers that Russian emeralds are the best,” noted Shaposhnikov.

Is it possible to invest in emeralds?


According to Fedorov, since 2018, the cost of Russian emeralds has increased by 25–30%. “Today, the volume of emeralds mined in the world is not so large; it is significantly smaller compared to other first-category stones – diamonds, sapphires, spinel and others,” he explained. Prices for emeralds vary greatly depending on clarity and color, ranging from $3 to $650 per gram.

According to Russian laws, individuals cannot buy uncut emeralds. For them, an investment emerald can only be a cut stone, which can be bought in jewelry stores with a certificate and data on its weight, color and purity.

“Prices for emeralds are growing year by year; they are bought not only by jewelry manufacturers, but also by museums or private collectors. A beautiful collectible emerald or its intergrowths, preserved in the original form in which nature created it several million years ago, can cost several times more than “jewelry material” with the same characteristics,” Shaposhnikov noted.

How to distinguish a real emerald from a synthetic one?


The Mariinsky mine sends about 20% of the mined emeralds to the domestic market and plans to increase this share. But more than half of the stones in Russian stores, according to Fedorov, are synthetic or refined emeralds brought to the territory of the Russian Federation from abroad.

Nevertheless, you can find real Ural gems on Russian shelves. “If you want to buy a real Ural emerald, you need to purchase it only in trusted jewelry stores and carefully study the certificate for the product. Because stones imported from abroad are often sold under the brand of Ural emeralds, often of low quality and undergoing treatment and refining,” Shaposhnikov warned.

It is quite difficult to distinguish natural emerald from synthetic emerald in a product. However, the difference can be seen through a tenfold magnifying glass: natural stones will have noticeable natural cracks and inclusions, which are not present in “synthetics” and refined stones, where these cracks are replaced by resin or polymeric materials. The seller must also have a certificate for the stone.

From 2023, a special system for marking precious metals and stones should be launched in Russia, which will help buyers distinguish natural stones from synthetic ones, including in jewelry. At the same time, it is not yet clear how exactly small stones up to 5 mm in size will be marked, since it is technically difficult to put a mark on them.

What other rare stones are mined in Russia?


Another rarest stone in the world is called alexandrite. In total, about 40 kg of alexandrites are mined per year in the world. The largest supplier to the world market is Brazil, occupying 93%, Russia is in second place with a share of 4%. At the same time, Russian stones have the most pronounced reverse – a change in color under different lighting conditions.

More than two-thirds of the alexandrites mined in the world are low-grade, small, cheap stones, while the “cash box” for global sales is made by expensive alexandrites costing from a thousand dollars per gram in raw materials. The highest quality alexandrites with high reverse and purity make up only 7% of the mined material, but at the same time they provide about 50% of the proceeds from sales, Fedorov explained.

In 2020, the Mariinsky mine produced 1 kg of alexandrites, and in 2021 it plans to increase production to 4 kg, he said.

Alexandrites are often more expensive than sapphires, rubies, emeralds and diamonds. At the same time, historically, Ural stones are valued much higher than others – in recent years, Russian cut alexandrites in products have been sold for $3-10 thousand per carat. True, there are still few such products on the market.

“Alexandrite acquired such a high price due to its rarity and the unique property of changing color depending on the light source. It is unlikely that their prices will fall in the next decade,” says Kirill Fedorov.

Elena Kargina

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